If a person happens to grow up on an isolated island by himself, with no contact with other human beings.

Would he still talk to himself? In what language would he do so? Would he have consciousness? How would his consciousness be different from ours? If you conclude that his consciousness is different does this imply that consciousness is a social construct?

  • You may need to be more specific, such as specifying which school of philosophical thought you are using, and what work you have done towards these questions already. As is, every one of those answers can be answered either "yes" or "no" depending on whose philosophical school they are using to defend their answer. – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '15 at 1:56
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    Also, this sounds like a HW question. We're not completely opposed to helping you work out your thoughts on it, but as the question is worded, it is too open ended... – virmaior Jan 23 '15 at 2:08
  • I'm pretty sure this is a duplicate, but I can't seem to find the other one... – iphigenie Jan 23 '15 at 13:08

There have been many examples of people who have grown up without human contact. They are called Feral Children. Apparently, the crucial change that seperated humans from animals occurs during a human's infancy and childhood, because feral children can't be taught normal human behavior after a certain point: in fact, they act basically like unusually intelligent animals. Because they never learned a language, there is no way they could maintain an internal dialogue. They are still conscious beings, however their consciousness would be so different for yours it would be almost impossible to comprehend.

It's a pretty interesting subject; I would recommend researching it further.


Would he still talk to himself? In what language would he do so?

According to Wittgenstein (in his Philosophical Investigations) he would not talk to himself because there is no such thing as a private language. Language is a social phenomenon.

However I don't see why he wouldn't be conscious. We are perfectly happy to attribute some level of consciousness primates and pets like cats and dogs despite their lack of language. We have no reason to believe that animals only become conscious when they come into contact with human beings so there is no reason human contact should be essential for human consciousness.

  • i doubt that's an accurate portrayal of wittgenstein, but i don't know so won't vote down – user6917 Jan 25 '15 at 5:55

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